Thursday, July 21, 2005

Literature/Real-Life Correlations

Note: I wrote this post about 2 months ago but never published it because it felt unfinished. It still feels unfinished, but I don't know how to end it so I'll just put it up anyway.

Waggish posted a few days ago on the lack of literature regarding work.
But when I think about work as I know it, there are few literary correlates. Proust, I'm sure, would have had brilliant things to say, but he was lucky enough not to have to work. Social realist novels like Gladkov's Cement or those of Dos Passos say less about the act of working than they do about the sociological politics underlying it. Leopold Bloom doesn't spend much of his day, page-wise, in the office, and certainly seems preoccupied with other matters even while he's there.
(This is really only tangentially related to his post, but) I can't comprehend. After reading his post, I spent a long while trying to think of an experience I've had that hasn't had multiple literary correlates, and I failed. This is troubling.

When I was a prepubescent little girl, I devoured books. My parents never kept tabs on my reading, so I was free to read coming-of-age novels, young-adult science fiction, and Danielle Steel. Before I even purchased my first pair of bell-bottoms (8th grade), I'd read all about pimples and bras and teenage pregnancy and how nice guys often had seedy underbellies and drugs and class elections and different sexual orientations and what to do if you were a girl who wanted to be a knight with magical powers. I was ready and excited to enter high school.

Of course, reading about it is different from living it, and expecting the problems didn't make dealing with them much easier. But the point is, ever since then, I've always had a guideline for my life - this is what to expect, these are your choices, these are your possible outcomes. This is how to look at things and how to look past them. I can't ever remember an experience (in my admittedly sheltered life) that hasn't had a close correlate in something I've read. I'm pretty sure most others, even the ones that don't read, have gotten a pre-taste of their life through other media outlets. Yet still, I do sometimes get exasperated because they don't sense the magnitude of the cliche of all their personal problems.

The people I know that have read a lot and widely since a very young age rarely talk at length about themselves. Is this common?

P.S. A question I am less well-equipped to answer: Is it the author's responsibility to come up with something that correlates with what the reader has experienced?